Dr. Issam Smeir, originally from Jordan, works at World Relief DuPage counseling refugees being resettled in the United States, many of whom have fled violence or conflict and are severely traumatized.
As one of the few Arab-speaking experts providing specific treatment for survivors of trauma, Dr. Smeir has a passion for training counselors in the Middle East and North Africa on ways to effectively treat victims of trauma—especially refugees. While refugees living in camps receive housing, water and food, professional help to deal with emotional pain is scarce. Syrian refugees without financial resources end up in refugee camps where the violence and trauma continues. Dr. Smeir traveled to his home country to train local mental health workers serving inside the camps in 2013 and 2014.
Dr. Smeir teaches counselors techniques to help refugees process their trauma and understand what is happening to their bodies, minds and psyches. Because of the trauma they have experienced, it is difficult for refugees to trust others, which can lead to tensions between host communities and the refugees who must now live together. According to Dr. Smeir, helping refugees heal from the hidden wounds of war is important to fostering peace because, “you cannot have peace with others until you have peace within yourself.” In his work, he has seen that when individuals are able to heal emotionally and psychologically, it not only impacts themselves, but their families and communities. “Seeing someone smile for the first time, who has not smiled in a very long time because of what they’ve been through—that is why I do what I do.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9 Peacemaking is a Biblically-based, long-term strategy for preventing and addressing man made conflict. It directly addresses the tensions woven into the fabric of societies that often lead to conflict and violence.